When the weather gets colder we all get less fresh air and spend more time in stuffy, centrally heated rooms, in closer proximity to other people. That, combined with a lowered immunity due to lack of sunlight, means that the colder months are a time when more of us get coughs, colds and even the flu. But if you don’t fancy spending the winter clutching a box of tissues – or worse, in bed – here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and avoid spreading germs to others too.
Colds don’t have to be an inevitable part of winter – there are some easy ways to protect yourself and others. “Good hygiene is key”, Nitin Makadia, Lloydspharmacy’s cold and flu expert, explains. “Wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water and cover your mouth with a tissue (not a handkerchief) if you cough or sneeze. Then put it in the bin immediately, or better still, flush it down the toilet. If you work in an office, you should regularly clean surfaces such as keyboards, telephones and door handles with antiseptic wipes to get rid of germs.” It’s important to look after yourself, too, as a healthy body means a healthy immune system that’s prepared to fight off bugs. “Maintain a healthy, balanced diet to help keep your immune system boosted and get a good night’s sleep – when you’re tired you are much more likely to catch a cold”, Nitin advises. “If you do get the sniffles, there are lots of remedies that people swear by – from taking vitamin C and Echinacea tablets, to avoiding dairy products when congested. My advice would be to use a combination of common sense, and medication as needed.”
Influenza (flu) is actually caused by the influenza virus, however many other viruses can cause an illness similar to flu. Because it’s hard for doctors to say exactly which virus is causing the illness, many viruses are diagnosed as a ‘flu-like illness’. Symptoms often include: a high temperature, sweating, feeling feverish or shivery, headache, aching limbs and tiredness, sore throat with a dry cough and a loss of appetite. But be aware that flu can be serious, especially for the very young, the very old and people with existing medical conditions. The flu season typically hits between October and April. “Prevention really is your best insurance policy against catching the flu, so I’d urge people to get vaccinated sooner rather than later”, Nitin advises. “It’s cheap, quick and could make the coming winter much more pleasant for you, your friends and your family.”
Flu vaccination – your choices
- Make an appointment to talk to your GP who will be able to advise you on whether you need a flu vaccination and how it works.
- Many chemists and pharmacies offer a flu vaccination service. To find your nearest vaccinating Lloydspharmacy visit: http://www.lloydspharmacy.com/flu. The flu vaccination normally costs £12 and is available to all adults aged 16+ in around 350 pharmacies throughout the UK.
- There is also a nasal vaccine available ideal for adults who have a phobia of needles, and from 2014 it will be used to vaccinate all children. It is a live vaccine so potentially can produce mild symptoms of flu. It’s also more expensive than a standard flu vaccination.
Try these over the counter remedies:
Robitussin Full Strength Chesty Cough with Congestion
(£3.99 for 100ml) To loosen stubborn mucus in chesty coughs and relieve other symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion and catarrh.
(£11.99 for 150 applications) You can have added protection against cold and flu viruses by simply dabbing a small amount of the water-based gel around your nostrils and above upper lip to create an invisible barrier around the nose.
Lloydspharmacy Max Strength Cold and Flu capsules
(£2.49 for 16 capsules) For relief from headaches, fever, sore throat and aches and pains.
Ultra Chloraseptic Throat Spray
(£5.21 for 100 sprays) Provides a great alternative to traditional lozenges.